I: The Caesar Strip

At the corner of 2nd Avenue and Wildcat Way, a bloated and toga-ed figure shook a sign at each passing car. The caricature Caesar hopped from foot to foot on the hot pavement.

The plastic sweated against his body like a layer of elephant skin and Patrick eyed traffic, wondering whether it was thin enough for him to finally dislodge the wedgie crawling up his backside. He flopped around to the right in a motion almost as if underwater as his suit struggled to keep up with him. Nothing coming. Flop left. Nothing coming. Patrick leaned his sign against the speed limit post and shimmied for a bit.

It was at this time, as the plastic Caesar battled internally with some possessing spirit, that the sheen of flashing colors dazzled the eyes of a passing insect. Charmed, it perched upon the suit's shoulder and nuzzled lovingly into its neck.

Within the humidity of the suit Patrick allowed himself a triumphant smile. He wriggled and thrust his arms back into the arms of the Caesar and leaned over to retrieve his sign. Something not unlike a sweat bead tickled his neck, but Patrick had trained himself to ignore the little itches. It was the only way one could survive in such a constricting line of work.

A van slowed to a stop at the corner light and Patrick waddled over to it. A three-year-old saw him and pressed his face against the car window. It was as much egging on as Patrick needed.

He began with a slow side to side, almost waltz-like. He lifted his sign, thrusting it in the direction of his hips. He then threw back his head, tilting the sign sideways, and air-guitared along its length. Through the mesh of the costume's eyes he could see the child turn to pull on his mother's sleeve. Five seconds ‘til green.

Patrick pumped his sign and shook, feeling the sweat crawl along the edge of his eyelid. Something else crawled along Patrick's bare shoulder and, dejected and disillusioned, the bug let out a mournful buzz.

"Bee!"

The sign skittered across the sidewalk as Patrick's rubber-bound arms whacked at his face and chest. He spun within the suit, wailing and squawking as the bee crossed his line of sight. Right. Left. The two inhabitants of the Caesar, in equal terror, squealed their war cries.

By now the child's mother had disregarded the steady green light and remained enraptured by the Caesar's dance. At the honks from behind she jolted and turned right, pulling into the Little Caesar's parking lot.

The bee fled through a seam in the Caesar's back just as Patrick wrenched off his head. He collapsed in the sudden light and heat, panting and wheezing. No longer hearing any buzzing, he sat back on his foam behind and wriggled his arm out and into his pocket. The mild panic attack was soothed by a quick zephyr of medicine seeping into his lungs. He repocketed the inhaler.

"Hey, kid," his manager said as he stomped up to street level.

Patrick's comically small head rotated above the suit's neck. "Yessir?"

"That customer's heading to an office picnic. Head of the planning committee. Ordered two dozen pizzas." He patted Patrick on the head. "Keep it up, kid, and I'll make sure you've got a job here every summer as long as you want it."

As he walked back down the incline to the shop, Caesar head under his arm like the images he'd seen of the first American astronauts, Patrick considered the offer. Guaranteed job. For life. Guaranteed job as a dancing mascot. For life.

Oh.

Well that would have to go.

The End

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